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Fitness is Not Just About Burning Calories

It’s not uncommon to find people ticking their nutrition boxes only to find that they have no muscle mass or meaningful body changes for it.

Sometimes, it’s just not the nutrition.

Training = mindset and application for performance improvement

Exercise = burns energy

There are merits and disadvantages to both.

If you are genuine about building a physique or performing, it does not rely solely on nutrition.

Training and the training intensity fuel the transformation.

The mere measurement of caloric expenditure as the quality of a workout does not tell you the whole story.

Intensity Vs Calories

You might hit your 'steps' but if they were all done fast and uphill one day and the next you got them shuffling through shopping markets, the calorie expenditure and information to the body's response generate a different end product.

It applies to workouts: simply ‘getting to the end’ can be a real goal to some people but the person emphasising effort and working hard will typically see an improved return on investment.

The real game-changer lies in the intensity and dedication invested in the training.

Imagine two people completing the same session.

These two people may have burned the same total calories in that session that they found by looking at the info from a device, like an Apple Watch or machine's computer value.

One person works hard, is focused, pushes their comfort zone, doesn’t give in, wants to train hard and comes away from that, repeats the workout and they can do it faster or with more weight, they have taken charge and that stimulus promotes physical change.

One person shows up, gets through, is not interested and goes through the motions, comes away and gets minimal if any change.

They repeat the workout, it's just as hard, they stop at the same part and it isn't easier.

The stimulus was inadequate for the body to recover effectively by replenishing muscle tissue and promoting future strength.

The difference…


Exercise stimulates the body to make changes but changes are made, with sleep, nutrition and rest.

Forget the sheer volume of calories torched; think about the quality of the work.

When you train, you squeeze muscle tissue, releasing enzymes and hormones that influence changes in your body to adapt. They 'shout' for hydration, protein, enzymes and glucose to be driven into muscle tissue.

All exercise efforts have caloric expenditure but the body's response and adaptation are different when workouts are infused with intensity and commitment.

You can exercise and burn calories to lose weight, let’s say, do a calorie counting model and walk, but that's probably not going to give you the experience or the body you want.

Not by fault of the trainee, those workouts coupled with inadequate recovery inadvertently contribute to heightened wear and tear on joints, particularly in areas such as knees, back, and shoulders. Insufficient replenishment eventually leads to injuries in the long run.

Intense training sends a powerful signal, prompting the body to adapt, grow or keep the muscle you have, and therefore, perform better.

Caloric burn alone fails to manage that, highlighting the need to shift the focus from quantity to the intensity that invites change.

Guard muscle tissue fiercely - it is a worthwhile investment.

If you freely give up your muscle tissue by chronically under-fuelling, ignoring protein or getting it from low-quality sources, you open yourself to injury, having to reduce calories greatly during fat loss, putting weight on fast and that is a cycle/trap even many fitness professionals find themselves in.

No energy to train

> You feel and perform awfully

> Lack of quality training, not enough energy to support it

> Your body unlocks energy from protein stores (your muscles)

> You don't use it so the body will reduce it

You weigh the same, have less muscle and more fat

Cycle repeats.

Benefits and Disadvantages of Training with Intensity

Intense workouts optimise caloric expenditure by engaging multiple muscle groups and elevating heart rate.

This efficiency becomes crucial for those aiming to maintain or lose weight without relying solely on the sheer quantity of exercise.

High-intensity training induces an "afterburn" effect, known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

This means the body continues to burn calories post-workout, contributing to a sustained metabolic boost, an advantage not solely mirrored in raw caloric exercise expenditure numbers.

Intensity plays a pivotal role in preserving and building muscle mass.

This becomes especially relevant when considering the potential drawbacks of excessive caloric expenditure without the corresponding stimulus for muscle development.

Training very hard, however, does have trade-offs.

Periodisation is key

Intensity should be tempered with caution. Excessive high-intensity workouts can lead to overtraining, increasing the risk of injuries, fatigue and diminishing returns.

Balancing intensity with adequate rest and recovery is essential but also having a long-term plan that undulates frequency, intensity, volume and rest is key to long-term success.

Intense training demands more from the body, not only in terms of calories but also specific nutrients.

Neglecting the nutritional aspect may hinder performance and impede the body's ability to recover, that’s not just a matter of protein or carbs, we’re talking iron being broken down through impact, immune health being disrupted battling fatigue, b vitamins and magnesium to support improvement of energy production.

All key to consider in food choices.

Some of us, and even muscle groups, respond differently to increased intensity Vs volume and frequency.

Factors like fitness level, age, and overall health influence how you adapt.

Knowing how long you can push intensity for is individual and is influenced by total stress load and genetics.

Long-thin limbed individuals (classically named ectomorphs), wide and muscular individuals (mesomorphs) and robust, solid individuals (endomorphs) respond differently and have wants and needs that are different.

Tailoring macronutrient intake to support the demands of intense training is therefore different but the key focuses never go away from protein for muscle repair, carbohydrates and fats for energy as well as plants and hydration for wellness.

If you want to get into great shape, it’s best to focus on your abilities.

Could you push more?

Could you have given more?

Can you run faster?

When the timer is over, did you give enough?

Nutrition benefits injury avoidance, improved recovery and motivation but if the stimulus for change isn’t there, and the nutrition to build is missing, the cycle I’m afraid, continues…

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